Swell Classification Guidelines
Significant: Winter - Swell 8 ft @ 14 secs or greater (11+ ft faces) for 8+ hours (greater than double overhead).
Summer - Head high or better.
Advanced: Winter - Swell and period combination capable of generating faces 1.5 times overhead to double overhead (7-10 ft)
Summer - Chest to head high.
Intermediate/Utility Class: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces at head high to 1.5 times overhead (4-7 ft).
Summer - Waist to chest high.
Impulse/Windswell: Winter - Swell and period combination generating faces up to head high (1-4 ft) or anything with a period less than 11 secs.
Summer - up to waist high swell. Also called 'Background' swell.
On Thursday (9/8) small northerly swell from the Gulf of Alaska was starting to show mid-day at shoulder high with modest west winds on it adding a fair amount of texture. Down south southern hemi background swell was occasionally waist high and fairly clean. Southern California had southwest backgrounds swell up to waist high or so up north and lumpy. Down south that same swell was pushing chest high on sets and fairly clean early. Hawaii's North Shore was trying to wake up with waves occasionally shoulder to near head high and clean. The South Shore was tiny with sets thigh high and a little ruffled with sideshore trades. The East Shore was small with waist high easterly tradewind generated windswell with lightly chopped conditions.
See QuikCASTs for the 5 day surf overview or read below for the detailed view
High pressure is trying to make a comeback in the East Pacific with the usual pressure gradient over Cape Mendocino scheduled for Friday and Saturday (9/10) with the requisite windswell resulting for Central CA, then fading with low pressure making a showing in the Gulf Sunday into Monday. Maybe another small pulse of Gulf swell to result, but nothing noteworthy. And speaking of Gulf swell, a little bit of it is hitting Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest down into Central CA and should hold through the early weekend, being generated earlier in the week in the Northern Gulf. Down south a modest gale developed east of New Zealand on Sat (9/3) with 32 ft seas aimed pretty well to the north for 24 hours with swell likely for Hawaii by Friday (9/9) and dribbles for the mainland early next week. The models suggest a weak system forming on the eastern edge of the California swell window on Monday (9/12), but most of it's energy is to be aimed all east. It looks like the southern hemi pretty much done for the season with our focus starting to look northward with greater expectations.
SHORT- TERM FORECAST
Current marine weather and wave analysis plus forecast conditions for the next 72 hours
At the surface on Thursday (9/8) high pressure was trying to make a minor comeback off California and the Pacific northwest at 1024 mbs with north winds just starting to build over Cape Mendocino at 15 kts. Weak low pressure was in the northern Gulf of Alaska at 1004 mbs. Another weak high was over the northern dateline at 1024 mbs. None of these systems had swell generation potential. Over the next 72 hours high pressure is to build Fri-Sat 600 nmiles off Northern CA resulting in north winds building over Cape Mendocino to 25-30 kts (Fri PM-Sat AM) with a bit of an increase in northerly windswell for Central CA, mixing with the Gulf swell indicated below.
Also on Saturday (9/10) a new gale is forecast developing 1400 nmiles west of Oregon with winds building on Sunday AM (9/11) to near 40 kts in it's southwest quadrant aimed well at Central CA 1400 nmiles out on the 297 degree great circle path and lifting slowly north through the evening.18-20 ft seas forecast at 45N 152W aimed all to the east and holding into Monday AM. A quick fade is forecast thereafter. Possible small swell to be radiating east towards Oregon down into Central CA. Something to monitor.
Weak Gulf Gale
On Monday (9/5) a 964 mb gale was developing in the Northern Gulf of Alaska generating 35 kt west winds up near 50N aimed well at the Pacific Northwest. That gale is essentially sat stationary just off the Alaskan coast through Tuesday generating mostly 30 kt west to northwest winds resulting in 22 ft seas Monday evening at 47N 158W (1600 nmiles from NCal on the 301 degree great circle path and 1500 nmiles from Hawaii and pushing a bit east of the 360 degree path) holding at that location Tuesday AM at 20 ft and then fading in the evening with seas dropping from 19 ft up at 50N 150W (1400 nmiles from NCal on the 310 degree path).
This is to result in small swell for North and Central CA at 5.0-5.5 ft @ 12-13 secs (6 ft faces) after dark on Thursday and providing surf for Friday (9/9) into Saturday (4.5 ft @ 11 secs - 4.5-5.0 ft faces) .
The same basic setup is expected for Hawaii in terms of swell size and arrival time but coming from 350 degrees.
North Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
No tropical systems of interest are being tracked.
California Nearshore Forecast
On Thursday (9/8) weak high pressure was trying to get established off the California coast ridging up into the Pacific Northwest. This was starting to form a small fetch of 15 kt north winds over Cape Mendocino, but was having no real effect down into Central and South CA. If anything a weak eddy flow (southwest wind) was in control. By late Thursday (9/8) the fetch is to become better defined as high pressure building to 1026 mbs and 15-20 kt north winds could reach down to Pt Arena and also building over Pt Conception late. But by Friday they are to all be refocused up near Cape Mendocino and building to 25 kts with a light eddy flow (south winds) taking control from Pt Arena southward. Winds to build to 30 kts late Friday holding into early Saturday (9/10) up a Cape Mendocino with the eddy flow into control south of Pt Arena, then fading Sunday as more low pressure building in the Gulf. A slack wind pattern is then through Wednesday (9/14) for the entire state, until high pressure again tries to build with north winds again on the increase Thursday (9/150 to 30 kt over Cape Mendocino and having a little more impact on the coast southward down to Pt Reyes.
On Thursday (9/8) a ridge in the jetstream was pushing into the Ross Ice Shelf under New Zealand then slowly rising while pushing east. No troughs of interest were in-play nor was any upper atmospheric support evident for the formation of a gale low at the oceans surface. Over the next 72 hours no real change is forecast, though the ridge is to slowly start receding in the Eastern Pacific. Beyond 72 hours the models suggest something that almost looks like a real trough is to start developing over the Southeastern Pacific starting Sunday (911) with 120 kt winds feeding into it by Monday. Some support for gale development possible but fading out 30 hours later.
At the surface on Thursday AM (9/8) high pressure at 1028 mbs dominated the Southwest Pacific with weak low pressure in the Southeast Pacific. But not fetch greater than 30 kts was suggested, and that only in a small area in the Central Pacific aimed almost southeast, towards Antarctica. Over the next 72 hours that low fetch is to push east and build slightly, with winds to 35 kts in the Southeast Pacific on Friday, but fading within 18 hours resulting in no seas of interest.
By Sunday AM (9/11) another low is to move into the Southeast Pacific with pressure down to 964 mbs and southwest winds building to 45 kts holding if not building in areal coverage in the evening. Seas to 32 ft then at 52S 135W. 40 kt southwest winds to hold into the Monday AM (9/12) resulting in 36 ft seas at 50S 127W, on the eastern edge of the California swell window but mainly target Chile with only sideband energy pushing up into California. Fetch is to be fading fast Monday PM with seas from previous fetch 36 ft but shrinking in coverage at 48S 120W and moving east out of the California swell window. All this, assuming it develops as forecast, could result in sideband swell for exposed breaks in California coming from 180-187 degrees. But most energy is to be focused on South America.
New Zealand Gale
On Friday AM (9/2) a gale was building just southeast of New Zealand with a broad area of 35-40 kt southwest winds tracking northeast through Saturday evening. This resulted in 30 ft seas Friday PM (9/2) at 51S 178E building to 32 ft Sat AM at 46S 176W (shadowed by Tahiti relative to the US West Coast) with a second area south of it with 30 ft seas at 55S 180W. Both pushed north Saturday PM (9/3) with 32 ft seas up north at 40S 170W and 30 ft seas to the south at 53S 174W. This system was gone by Sunday AM (9/4). Small swell possible for Hawaii and less for the US West Coast.
Hawaii: Expect swell arrival during the day Friday (9/9) pushing near 3 ft @ 17 secs late (5 ft) then fading through the day Saturday (9/10) with swell initially 3.3 ft @ 16 secs (5.0-5.5 ft) and dropping from 3.6 ft @ 14 secs on Sunday (5 ft). Swell Direction: 191 degrees
California: Swell swell expected to arrive on Monday (9/12) with pure swell maybe 2 ft @ 17 secs (3 ft). Swell Direction: 210 degrees
South Pacific Animations: Jetstream - Surface Pressure/Wind - Sea Height - Surf Height
Marine weather and forecast conditions 3-10 days into the future
Beyond 72 hrs modest low pressure is to be traversing the Bering Sea Sun-Thurs (9/15) with winds 25-30 kts, but all isolated north of the Aleutians Islands and landlocked by the Aleutians. No swell to result for Hawaii or the US West Coast. No other swell producing fetch forecast.
As of Thursday (9/8) the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) was rising some. The daily SOI was 13.49. The 30 day average was up slightly to 4.94 with the 90 day average down slightly to 4.37.
Current wind analysis indicates very light easterly anomalies blowing over the Central equatorial Pacific just making it over the dateline, then fading to neutral from there into Indonesia. Near normal winds were over the far Eastern Pacific with no anomalies indicated. This is the same pattern that has been in effect for 2 months now (neutral to light west anomalies on either side of the Pacific and light east anomalies in the the middle) and indicative of neither the Active or Inactive Phase. The models indicate that easterly anomalies are to build over the West Pacific a week out (9/16) with light easterly winds continuing over the Central Pacific and normal winds in the East. This is suggestive of the Inactive Phase of the MJO a week out. But the long term model suggests that if anything the exact opposite is to occur, with the Active Phase of the MJO is to be building in the West Pacific starting a week out an building there 2 weeks out while the Inactive Phase migrates from the West Pacific into the East Pacific. It is hard to believe either model at this point. Will monitor but we suspect there is no good impact expected in relation to the North Pacific storm over the next few weeks.
Sea Surface Temp anomaly data (9/8) remains essentially unchanged and continues to indicate that cooler waters (-1 C degs) had a grip on the equator covering from a point south of Hawaii to the dateline and holding steady if not increasing their coverage slightly. The larger issue was cooler than normal waters present in feeder bands originating off the US West Coast and Chile sweeping fully to the intersection of the dateline and the equator, serving to continue the existing La Nina pattern. This is typically what is referred to as a horseshoe pattern. At least the cooler waters off the US West Coast were not expanding coverage anymore nor getting cooler as they had in late July into August. But warmer than normal waters are not building anymore over the Galapagos Islands extending west to a point south of Hawaii, and if anything were shrinking. And that pattern as getting more pronounced as of 9/5 with eddy's of cool water starting to invade the Galapagos warm pool near 120W. Tongues of warmer water are positioned in the both the Northwest and Southwest Hemispheres but are trying to make inroads to the east, a bit more effective in the north and in the south, now reaching into Northern CA. But overall the big picture still looks very much like La Nina.
Below the surface on the equator things have again taken a turn for the worse. Colder than normal water that had been locked all winter (2010-2011) southeast of Hawaii under the equator evaporated in late February 2011, then returned starting in early July. An impenetrable wall of colder than normal water (-3 degs C) developed in mid-July locked at 140W separating warm anomalies in the east and west, blocking any eastward progress of warmer subsurface water. On 7/21 it vaporized, with a clear subsurface path present allowing warmer subsurface water to flow eastward. But then as quickly as it redeveloped, it died with the cold pool re-emerging starting on 7/30 and built far stronger by 8/8 with waters -5 deg C below normal and holding strength and position on the equator and south of Hawaii through 8/18 and blocking the warm water flow eastward. It was down at 100 meters and was rising while gaining areal coverage. Then on 8/20 it looked a bit weaker, down to -4 degs below normal and by 8/23 vaporized with just residual -2 degree anomalies left behind. By 8/28 those anomalies were holding at -2 C and drifting east while fading, down to -1 deg on 8/30. No change thru 9/5, but then on 9/8 they again dropped to -4 degs C. This area of cool subsurface water was still blocking the normal warm flow to the east. This suggests that a weak Active Phase of the MJO in mid-August might have tried to dislodged the cool pool, at least temporarily, but then it returned with the Inactive Phase in the West Pacific the last weeks of August into September.
Ocean currents for the equatorial Pacific on 9/5 were unchanged from the previous month flowing anomalously west in the far West Pacific with a small pocket of strong easterly flow at 120W. Previously we found anomalies developed flowing from west to east starting in February and were continuing through June 2011 (a little weaker towards mid-June than earlier in the month). Westerly anomalies continued in July to (thru 7/22) Easterly anomalies were isolated to a small area on the equator at 120W. We oft look at such symptoms as an El Nino indicator, but that does not seem likely given all the other data. But that coupled with a falling SOI at least it depicts a tendency towards normal conditions. Will monitor. Historically it is very unlikely if not impossible to have an El Nino form directly behind a La Nina. More typical is several years of a slow buildup before an actual El Nino event occurs. This suggest the warm waters currently pooling up off Ecuador will likely dissipate as summer progresses but at the same time, the cooler than normal horseshoe pattern over the North and South Pacific will dissipate too.
Remnants of what was a moderate plus strength La Nina Pattern (where the Inactive Phase takes control) are still evident and momentum from this La Nina event are expected to hold well into the Fall of 2011 (and likely to early 2012) in the upper atmosphere regardless of how quickly La Nina's demise occurs in the ocean. In short, it's going to be tough for surfers on west facing shores in the Eastern Pacific and Eastern Atlantic, though east facing shores of the West Pacific and Atlantic might do well from the Inactive Phase's dominance, especially in summer months. That is not to say there will be no storms, in fact, there could be short periods of intense activity when the Active Phase gets an opportunity to come to fruition, but that will be the exception rather than the rule, with the Inactive Phase trying to keep a cap on storm activity. Best bet's at this time are for an enhanced tropical season in the Atlantic (2011).
See imagery in the ENSO Powertool and more details in the El Nino update.
Beyond 72 hours no swell producing fetch is forecast. Looks like the swell producing season for the southern hemisphere is coming to a close.
Details to follow...
External Reference Material: El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden Julian Oscillation (MJO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), Kelvin Wave
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Chasing the Swell has been nominated for a Webby Award. See details of this great piece of video journalism below. Some say this is the "Oscars" of online awards.One of the awards is voter based. If you have a moment, please cast your ballot by going to: http://webby.aol.com, register, then click on the "Get Voting" tab and then to the "Online Film and Video" > "Sports" category and vote for "Chasing the Swell".
Timmy Reyes - Curt Myers from Powerlines Productions found this little gem with Timmy Reyes providing a brief statement about which sites he uses for swell chasing. Thought we'd pass it on. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P30ZCQOsYwY
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Mavericks Surf Shop Grand Opening - Sunday, December 19 2:00 - 6:00 p.m. rain or shine! Check out the new home of Jeff Clark's Mavericks Surf Shop, now located at 25 Johnson Pier in Pillar Point Harbor. The shop features much of Clark's surfing memorabilia, classic boards and photos, as well as an entirely new line of Jeff Clark original Mavericks clothing, accessories and surfboards. The shop has been open in the new location since December 8, and the Grand Opening party is set for this coming Sunday, just in time for Christmas. The party starts at 2 p.m., with live music, food and drinks. Jeff Clark and many Mavericks surfers will be there to meet the public. Local restaurants Ketch Joanne's and Princeton Seafood will serve up delicious food, while San Francisco Wine Trading Company is providing the beverages. The shop will be open all weekend, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Stormsurf Maintenance Upgrades: Buoy 46059 and 46012 were replaced a month or so ago. Totally new buoys were installed. Here on Stormsurf we had to reset the algorithms used to calculate 'pure swell' for them. That was accomplished on 11/13. Pure swell numbers are now correct. Links: 46012, 46059
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Chasing The Swell: Sachi Cunningham from the LA Times spent the entirety of last winter chasing surfers and swells around the North Pacific with her high def video cam. Her timing couldn't have been any better with the project exactly coinciding with the strongest El Nino in 12 years resulting in the best big wave season in a decade. And being an accomplished surfer herself helped her to bring a poignant and accurate account of the what it's like to ride big waves and the new (and some not so new) personalities that are revitalizing the sport. This is must-see material for any surfer or weather enthusiast. Check it out here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/chasingtheswell/
New Weather Models With the activation of our new server we have now released a new block of weather models including North America jetstream, wind and precipitation, local coastal wind forecasts in 1 hr increments and snow and mountain wind forecasts in both 1 and 3 hours increments. The new animations can be found here (look for those items tagged with the New! icon): http://www.stormsurf.com/mdls/menu_wx.html
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Surf Height-Swell Height Correlation Table